A cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas could come as early as Friday, according to people involved in the discussions, as pressure mounts from Washington and other foreign capitals to bring an end to airstrikes and rocket fire that have claimed a rising number of civilian casualties.
Egyptian officials have made headway in negotiations with Hamas’s leadership, and the Israeli military has privately conceded that it is nearing the completion of its objectives, U.S. and foreign officials said. The Biden administration anticipates that a cease-fire could come this week, barring any unforeseen clashes that might topple the fragile discussions, according to a U.S. official.
The U.S., along with Egypt, Qatar and several European nations, has been working to pressure both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders to end their military campaigns amid dire conditions in Gaza.
There is a mechanism in place for a cease-fire and the only issue is timing, the U.S. official said, while noting that members of another militant group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, remain a wild card. There are concerns that the group might provoke the situation even after the two sides agree to a cease-fire in principle. The White House declined to comment.
President Joe Biden told Netanyahu in a phone call Wednesday that “he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” the White House said. It was the fourth phone call between the two leaders in a week, and Biden has gradually exerted pressure on Netanyahu to end the conflict amid the mounting death toll.
An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.
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